The Walking Club
There seem to be more cars than usual (usually there are none) in your favourite and secret lay-by. By the time you have put on your boots and hefted your sack onto your back ten more have arrived, disgorging their cargo of middle aged couples, the odd dog and a multitude of walking poles, maps, compasses, flasks and water bottles. The chatter, the pointing, the donning of gaiters bring home the terrible truth – a walking club has chosen ‘your’ hills as this Sunday's objective.
Some are ready to go and pacing up and down looking pointedly at their watches, others are shouting into mobile phones “well, where exactly are you, then?” as stragglers make their way to the assembly point. With any luck you can get a fifteen minute start and still have a peaceful day out. You set off rather more briskly than you would normally wish. Your “Good Mornings” are ignored by the self-absorbed crowd who have now stopped telephoning and moved on to the “So, it’s just Marjorie then!” stage.
Fifteen minutes later you look back and see that the group has started to move in your direction. After 200 yards or so it stops. A huddle develops. Maps are produced. Fingers are pointed and GPS consulted. There is clearly some dispute. The group divides, amoeba-like, as a smaller huddle breaks off and starts its own discussion with fingers pointing a few degrees off those of the main body. They both start to move on diverging courses, soon losing sight of one another. Despite yourself you begin to observe the progress of the two rival factions.
It soon becomes obvious that the smaller breakaway group have made the error, and they are walking at a cracking pace to rejoin the correct path a face-saving distance ahead of the unseen peleton. The tactic fails. They converge simultaneously and halt in another flurry of maps and recrimination, but this time the fingers are pointing along the correct path, and towards your eyrie – mmm, time to get a move on.
But there’s no need to rush. With stops occasioned by Majorie’s ‘old trouble’ and Eric’s dodgy prostate the group proceeds in fits and starts gradually extending into a long ragged crocodile until it finally stops altogether to regroup for elevenses … at around 9.30.
You wander on up the hill, enjoying the day. The sights and sounds of nature unspoiled lift your spirits. Curlews cry, skylarks sing and all is right with your world. By lunchtime you have found a nice little drystone shelter and are enjoying a post-prandial snooze. Then something wakes you with a start. The birds have fallen silent … a new chorus fills your ears,
“So I said to ‘er, I said, Ooooh, you little …”
“And did you see that Tracey Barlow on Corrie last night.”
“Of course, I always take the A66 to Brough, but then, mind, I turn off via…”
There’s no escape. You are surrounded by the chattering camaraderie of the “Striders Club”. You nod politely to Marjorie as she introduces herself and chatters alongside you.
“Hello, I’m the club secretary. We could do with some new blood – you should join us, fit young man like you. We’re out every weekend – always somewhere different.”
You ask Marjorie for the season’s itinerary, telling her that it will be invaluable in planning your future walks. She hands you a list of dates and venues. “We’ll see you soon, then?”
You smile your most benevolent smile.
Labels: Outdoor Stereotypes